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New North Wales Rock Guidebook
08/12/2006

How much research went into it? What percentage of routes were actually climbed in the checking process? To ensure accuracy how much attention to detail was involved and did you discover a few 'howlers'?

The book has been meticulously researched. The vast majority of the 676 routes were specifically checked and where this was not possible we made sure that at least one member of the guidebook checking team had done the route in recent years and could give a reliable account of its character and difficulties.

Quite a lot of mistakes and inaccuracies were discovered in the existing definitive record. Most surprisingly the biggest errors tended to be on the more mainstream or classic routes. Slow Ledge Climb on Dinas Mot is a good example. Itís a wonderful route, particularly when the evening light strikes the upper pitch, but Iíd advise anybody to rope up on the approach Ďscrambleí and belay immediately on the exposed ledge at the end of the main pitch.

Grooved Arete, the classic V. Diff on the East Face of Tryfan is another example. I remember thinking that the description was dodgy when I did it a few years ago, so I asked Streaky, who wrote that section of the guide, to have a good look at this. He came back with the conclusion that the C.C. guide and the Paul Williams guide had been using a bogus description, which effectively invented a pitch where it simply did not exist. Who knows how many people must been left flummoxed by this over the years? I guess when guidebook writers are working on definitive guides the focus is on the new routes; they must have assumed that the descriptions of the big classics were correct.

A big effort was made to ensure that approach descriptions were written from the point of view of the first time visitor. For example at the notoriously confusing Craig Bwlch y Moch at Tremadog we wrote specific descriptions of how to reach the base of each of the key buttresses. With the help of our guide and some valuable tree pruning work carried out by the North Wales Climbing Action Group (a big thank you to Mike Raine for instigating the recent crag clean up), you should see a lot less confused and lost climbers wandering around in the undergrowth.

When was the current selected climbs guide by the late Paul Williams last updated? How badly did we need an update?

Paul's guide was last updated back in 1990. The world of guidebook production has changed completely since then. Climbers now expect to see colour photo topos, decent maps and large numbers of inspiring action shots. The modern guidebook is a far more sophisticated and intricately designed work than what was the norm back in the '80s. Having said that, I did rate Paul Williamsí 1987 Llanberis guide Ė a classic milestone in guidebook publishing.

However, in recent times I have felt a growing sense of frustration that the existing crop of guidebooks were not showing North Wales in its best light. North Wales had definitely gone out of vogue; little wonder when you look at what was happening guidebook wise in the Peak, particularly with Grimerís BMC books. I was determined to change that, and bring people back to the Welsh crags and it was obvious to me that a modern selected guide was badly needed.

What geographical region is covered?

Although the guide title is North Wales Rock we chose to concentrate on the northwest corner of Wales as this is where the highest concentration of classic routes can be found. I could have included the Clwyd Valley limestone or the Mid Wales crags down around Cader Idris, but it would have been a very cumbersome book. As it stands, you can reach all of the main crags (the Llanberis Pass, Cloggy, Lliwedd, Ogwen and the Carneddau, Tremadog and the Moelwyns, Gogarth, the Lleyn Peninsula and the Llandudno limestone crags) from the traditional climbing centres of Llanberis or Nant Peris in less than an hour and most are within a 30 minutes drive!

The climbing scene has changed considerably since the Ď80s too. For example, the Llandudno limestone crags really came into their own during the Ď90s, so I decided to increase the coverage of these crags accordingly. A conscious effort was made to provide greater coverage of the the fast drying slate quarries and out on the peripheral coastal areas where more favourable weather conditions are likely. I felt it was important to give people plenty of options should the weather turn bad in the mountains.

What marks your guide out as being in the modern idiom?

Until very recently climbing guidebooks have been quite primitive by mainstream design standards. I used a designer, Mark Lynden, who was also a keen climber in his younger days, to help me with the North Wales Bouldering book (which I produced back in 2004) and I realised then that this was the way forward. The designer does need to be a climber, otherwise they wonít understand the subtleties of what is being conveyed. Guidebooks are incredibly important to climbing culture; if you get it wrong itís a very unforgiving audience.

The book has full colour photo topos and individual approach maps for every crag. A high standard of presentation is vital, but what really takes this guide to another level is the large amount of action and landscape images that we managed to cram into it. Some modern guidebooks are very efficient in terms of how they deliver the information, but more often than not they leave me cold. I like to see a lot of inspiring images. I feel North Wales Rock is a celebration of the great rock climbs that we have in this area. Itíll not only get you to the crag in one piece, but it will make you want to go there in the first place.

My goal was to reach out to people and let them know in no uncertain terms how great Welsh climbing is. I have always had this notion of somebody picking up a copy of North Wales Rock in a climbing shop somewhere, and the visual impact of the book being so strong that they immediately shelve all other matters in their life, call their friends, go home, pack the car and run for the hills.

Beyond the initial visual impact of a guidebook, there needs to be a deeper connection, and this is where the words become important. I felt I had to really raise my game and match the energy and flair that Al Williams, the designer, was conjuring up with the layout. Luckily the North Wales crags make for an inspiring subject matter, and Iíve had so many intense experiences climbing in Wales over the last twenty odd years that when it came to it, the words just flowed.

We did consider making the book available as a cd-rom to give climbers the option of printing off the relevant pages for multi-pitch routes rather than carrying a full guidebook with them, but decided against it for the time being.

Personally for you as editor what have been the most pleasurable and difficult aspects of the project? When did you begin it?

This has been a very exciting project to work on. Iíve relished the dynamic process of converting the basic raw material (descriptions, images, graphics, topos and maps) into the finished product. It has been great to see how energised people are by the fast turn-around. I could be given a re-written route description or a new action shot and a day or two later, after Al had weaved his magic, I could email out the new pages. Traditionally the guidebook production process is a protracted and energy sapping process. Working with Al has been a revelation. The speed of turn around has fired up all the contributors, leaving them eager to help even more.

The most difficult aspects of the project have come in the final run up to publishing. I was dragged through an extremely steep learning curve when I produced the North Wales Bouldering guide back in 2004, but this time I was surprised again how much there was to learn. The publishing game is a tricky business; there are a lot of pitfalls and traps awaiting the uninformed or careless.

From a logistical point of view North Wales Rock was a difficult book to make. The geographical spread of crags is broad and just getting hold of the relevant crag photos was quite a challenge. Itís not a case of wandering along a low-level grit escarpment snapping shots of neatly defined 40ft high blocks. In North Wales youíve got to deal with big complex crags set in mountain environments, or perhaps just as equally trying, inaccessible sea cliffs with complicated approaches.

Also, there is a tremendous amount of information in this book and that has meant Iíve really had to maintain a disciplined watch on the production process. I knew we had to get the detail absolutely right.

The workload has been quite hard to deal with. Iíve been working very long hours, normally through into the late evening, and often at weekends for well over a year now and it has taken its toll. I need a break now and itíll be nice to go back to a normal life, spend some time hanging out with my family and going out climbing with my friends.

The book will be available in the New Year and can be pre ordered at a special discount price of £21.95 + p&p from:
www.v12outdoor.com .......but hurry.....the offer only lasts until Xmas (after that it'll be £24.95).

Topic: Rock Climbing in North Wales; Selected Climbs In North Wales Guidebook; Rock Climbing in Snowdonia.


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